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The land agent and the old poor laws: examining the correspondence of William Spencer in Sapcote, Leicestershire

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Limited research has been conducted on the ways in which land agents were involved in the adminis- tration and management of poor relief on estates. Literature on the old poor laws has focused on the individuals vested with powers under law to administer poor relief (such as parish officers and magistrates) and literature on land agents has overlooked this role. In order to address this deficiency, this article examines the richly detailed correspondence of William Spencer, who worked in Leicestershire for John Frewen Turner, and his role in the implementation of a deterrent workhouse system in the early nineteenth century. Spencer directed the establishment of the new institution, negotiated between the landowner and key individuals in the community, and gleaned information about poor relief practices in other locations. Spencer also held prejudices against individuals in the community, and reported their resistance to the new workhouse. This case study illustrates some of the ways in which land agents influenced and managed poor relief system in nineteenth-century rural England.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: December 1, 2020

More about this publication?
  • Agricultural History Review is the leading journal for the publication of original research in all aspects of agricultural and rural history. First published in 1953, the Review reflects the diversity of approaches which are possible in rural history. Its editors welcome submissions in any aspect of the history of agriculture, rural society and rural economy over the past millennium. Whilst it is not concerned with current policy debates, it is interested in considering discussions of the historical dimensions of current problems in rural society and food supply. The Review is especially strong in British rural history, but actively seeks submissions in European and American rural history and has no bar on submissions concerning the remainder of the world. It is also the journal of record for book reviews in the discipline.

    Agricultural History Review has an international editorial board. The current editors are Professor P. S. Warde, University of Cambridge, UK, who is responsible for articles, and Dr J. R. Morgan, University of Bristol, UK, who serves as editor for book reviews. The Review is fully peer-refereed.

    Agricultural History Review is published by the British Agricultural History Society from whom personal subscriptions may be obtained.
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